Sub-Saharan Africa more peaceful than other world regions – report


Sub-Saharan Africa is more peaceful than commonly perceived, according to a new Global Peace Index (GPI) report, although levels of violence remain high in North Africa due to the continued fallout from the Arab Spring.

In sub-Saharan Africa, Mauritius, Botswana and Namibia ranked the top three most peaceful countries, with Somalia being at the bottom of the list, followed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic. South Africa ranked 28 out of 44 sub-Saharan countries.
“The perception of Sub-Saharan Africa as a locus of economic underperformance and political instability is increasingly out-of-date, as underscored by the 2013 results of the GPI,” the report said.
“Sub-Saharan Africa as a whole this year ranks above the Middle East and North Africa, South Asia, and Russia and Eurasia in terms of peacefulness. In part, this reflects rising economic prosperity—Sub-Saharan economic growth has outstripped that of every other region in the world over the past two years—and, ironically, the region’s traditional marginalisation from the global economy has helped insulate it from the impact of the global financial crisis.”

The report cautioned that risks to peace can arise when the benefits of rapid national growth are not shared. “For example, the deterioration in Burkina Faso’s ranking is underscored by a rise in the likelihood of violent demonstrations, homicide rates and violent crime. Public anger over the high cost of living and the inadequacy of state services, notwithstanding strong overall economic growth, has already led to a wave of violent protests and strikes, and the potential for further unrest remains high.”

The report found Burkina Faso in 2012 to be the nation with the largest positive peace deficit. “Frustration with the inequitable division of spoils can also lead to an upsurge in violent crime, or perceptions thereof, as is apparent in the Central African Republic (CAR), Gambia, Mozambique, Niger, Tanzania and Togo.”

The Institute for Economics & Peace in its report saw the longevity of African leaders as a danger sign regarding peace and security. “Longstanding leaders are often accompanied by a marginalisation of opposition parties; deprived of the opportunity to change leadership via the ballot box, populations will turn instead to more violent means, as has been the case in the CAR (the military coup in Mali was an exception, being a reflection of military dissatisfaction with the conduct of an anti-insurgency campaign). While the eventual overthrow of the CAR’s president will be reflected in next year’s rankings, the preceding violence and instability contributed to the country’s ranking of 42nd out of 45 regional states.”

The GPI singled out several sub-Saharan nations as affected by conflict: “Cote d’Ivoire’s 2013 ranking was hit by a surge in violence in the second half of 2012, with a series of attacks in the south of the country blamed by the government on forces loyal to the former president, Laurent Gbagbo.
“The Democratic Republic of the Congo continues to be affected by armed conflict in the eastern provinces of the country, which in turn is driven by extensive population displacement over decades, as well as a lack of central government control, competition over control of the region’s vast natural resources and tensions between various communities and ethnic groups.
“Sudan’s low ranking is a reflection of the long-standing tensions that led to the secession of South Sudan in July 2011. This did not resolve issues in the states bordering what is now South Sudan, while Somalia has not truly recovered from its descent into civil conflict in the early 1990s,” the report reads.

While sub-Saharan Africa does not rank as badly as some regions, North Africa has recorded poor rankings, particularly due to the fallout of the Arab Spring.
“The resulting turmoil, combined with the concurrent crackdowns by long-standing incumbents keen to head off potential internal threats, has had a profound impact on the region’s overall peacefulness. This is especially notable in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen, which have all seen a deterioration in their scores,” the report noted.
“The new leaderships in these post-revolutionary states have struggled to implement an orderly transition, resulting in a resurgence of violent protests, rising violent crime and, in the cases of Egypt and Yemen, an increase in terrorist activity. As a result, all three have suffered a further slide down the rankings. More positively, Libya, which is also grappling with a difficult transition, has experienced an improvement in its score, after the conclusion of its civil war and the removal of Muammar Qadhafi.”

Libya experienced the greatest improvement in its score, with a newly elected government and recovering institutions following the turmoil of the recent revolution and civil war, however it is still lowly ranked. Sudan and Chad experienced the second and third-most substantial gains as their respective conflicts eased, but conditions in areas of both countries are far from peaceful and they remain in the lower reaches of the GPI.

In summary, the GPI stated that since 2008 the world has become 5% less peaceful, with the three least peaceful countries being Afghanistan, Somalia and Syria.
“The last year has been marked by the rising intensity of the civil war in Syria and its geopolitical ramifications, the continued US withdrawal from Afghanistan alongside persistently weak performances by the major economies. These factors have contributed to the world becoming slightly less peaceful, continuing the global slide in peacefulness which has now been in effect for the last six years,” the report reads.

According to the GPI report, the total economic impact of containing violence is equivalent to 11% of global GDP, or $9.46 trillion.